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Texas leaders announced Tuesday that they have agreed to commit more than $100 million in public funds to bolster school safety and mental health services in the wake of the Uvalde massacre.
Nearly half of the money — $50 million — is being spent on bulletproof shields for school police officers, a priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. The second-largest expense — $17.1 million — is for school districts to purchase silent panic alert technology, which allows them to alert law enforcement in the event of an emergency. .
The total funding of $105.5 million will support the initiatives through August 2023. Almost all of the money comes from a budget surplus within the Texas Education Agency, which oversees public kindergarten education in 12th grade.
“The State of Texas is moving quickly to ensure our schools are safe and that Texas children, teachers and families have the support and resources they need to stay safe as we work to prevent future tragedies. as the heinous crime committed at Uvalde,” Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement.
Republican leaders in the state have widely championed mental health and school safety as a political response to the May shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, resisting gun control measures. The massacre left 19 students and two teachers dead, as well as 17 others injured.
Mental health efforts include $5.8 million to expand telemedicine for children and $4.7 million to increase use of a treatment program for at-risk youth.
In approving the funds, Abbott emphasized that nearly all were transferred from the TEA surplus and “would not affect the school’s current operations or funding.” Just over $100 million comes from this source, while the remaining $5 million comes from the state Health and Human Services Commission.
Patrick called on heads of state to support the transfer of $50 million for bulletproof shields. Republican Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan agreed with Patrick but also proposed several additional initiatives, including silent panic alert technology.
Proponents of gun control have called the funding insufficient.
“Once again, Governor Abbott’s response is insufficient and out of touch with the realities of the gun violence crisis in Texas,” Liz Hanks, a volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement. “We need evidence-based solutions to prevent gun violence in schools, not ineffective measures that militarize our schools.”
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